A Family of Her Own

A Family of Her Own - Original Cover
Original Cover

There must be a rule that Harlequin’s have generic titles. A Family of Her Own is a title that could apply to any number of romances, and it’s unfortunate that Brenda Novak’s lively story is saddled with a bland title. And the latest cover is more generic than the original. A Family of Her Own is a 2004 book in the SuperRomance line. These are defined by their longer than standard romance length, around 80,000 words, and the more complex plots, characterization, and additional characters the length permits.

Katie is heading back to town after two years in the big city, broke, five months pregnant and fleeing a failed relationship. Her car breaks down, and of course it’s raining. The first person to come along is Booker, ex-con, and ex-boyfriend. She dumped him before leaving town, because she wanted a stable, reliable man. He gives her a ride to her parents’ house, but they tell her that she needs to sleep in the bed she made, and refuse to let her in. (I thought you had to lie in the bed you made, and my Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs agrees. I’m not sure if this variation is supposed to tell us that the parents are country or confused, or if this is just the version the author knows). Booker and Katie are reluctant to spend time together, but he’s a gentleman with a spare room, she’s a damsel in distress, and desperate times call for desperate measures. (The Dictionary of Proverbs notes this is actually ‘Desperate diseases must have desperate remedies,’ but acknowledges, in this case, that there are many variations.)

Katie does not want charity, from Booker, or from her old crush Mike, who offers her a place to live and sinecure at his resort. Instead, she proposes to earn her keep by doing housework for Booker. Since she left town, he has taken over his late grandmother’s farmhouse and acreage, purchased a garage, and become a more-or-less respectable citizen, though a few in town refuse to give him their business. Booker has also taken in Delbert, a developmentally disabled man who had nowhere to go when his father died, and Delbert works with him at the garage. Booker repairs Katie’s car, and at her request, arranges to sell it from the garage. Her plan is to use the money to purchase a computer and software, and earn money creating websites.

A Family of Her Own - Current Cover
Current Cover

Booker is eager to help, and when no one is interested in buying the car, he hides it on his property, pretends it has sold, and gives her the money. You just know this is going to be a problem later. It is, but not because he’s lied to her. She doesn’t seem to mind that, and the problem caused by the car is easily solved. Unfortunately, the many problems that come up are all easily solved. Katie quickly learns she was wrong to reject Booker, so her main obstacle is not her learning that he is a good man (which would allow her some character growth), but her failure to tell him she has changed her mind about him. Her reticence to express her feelings leads to him trying a one-night stand, which creates trust issues for her, but as other characters note, she hasn’t given him any reason to think they are getting back together. Mike is interested in her, but since her feelings for Booker are firm, there’s no suspense there.

Towards the end, as crisis piled upon crisis, my reactions bounced between “Oh no! What else could possibly go wrong?” and, “Well, that wasn’t anything to worry about.”  Of course there’s going to be a happy ending, but the SuperRomance format has enough subplots and secondary characters that at least one rejected suitor could have been less gracious, or one issue remained unresolved. After everything that happened, the ending seemed too neat.

I must acknowledge the strength of Katie. Yes, she’s the literal damsel in distress at the beginning, but she rallies, and helps Booker at times. Her online work is not just successful, but is eventually a significant contribution to Booker’s business. I also need to acknowledge a few unexpected plot twists, which are always appreciated.

This is one of several books set in the same town, with overlapping characters, and it appears that Novak wrote some of these in the early 2000s, then returned to the location a few years ago. There are now eight stories, none involving siblings, which suggests the town requires a police force larger than the mere three mentioned here. There’s also a variety in the types of stories, so I’m keen to read more. Despite a few quibbles and disappointments, overall this is a pleasant read. If only it had a better title.